What Is the Most Productive Type of Reading?

Personal finance

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I’ve been really into reading lately.

For years (while I was in graduate school), I found it difficult to read outside the classroom.  Growing up I was an avid reader of just about anything I could get my hands on, but college–and to a much greater extent, graduate school—changed that.  I was so burnt out on all the assigned reading that it actually ruined my love of reading–to the point that even following graduation I rarely completed a new book.  The majority of months went by without me even giving a new book a try.  I would make excuses like “I don’t have the time,” or “I can’t find anything interesting to read.”

Thus, for years and years, my reading consisted of magazines or the sports section of the local paper (and of course blogs!).

So, I was actually quite surprised by my recent reading renaissance.  I’ve been on a reading binge like never before.

Eye Strain and Beyond! 

I started reading historical biographies on a whim.  I had a new commute and I needed something to pass the time.  To my shock, I was totally into the historical biographies.  When I used to read a lot before, it was invariably fiction (sometimes “literature” and sometimes mainstream “thrillers.”  But now here I was diving into the life of Winston Churchill or John Adams and surprisingly (and whole-heartedly) loving every second of it.  There were days (and there still are) where I can’t wait for the end of the night to come—the part of the day where I get to crawl in bed and read for an hour or so.

But now I’m panicking because I worry I’m wasting too much time lost in books.  As I’ve written before, it’s well-documented that I have a compulsive personality when it comes to hobbies.  This reading kick is surely just another expression of that.

What I’ve been worrying about the most lately, is whether reading is at all productive.  I’m also a huge sucker for trying to be productive at all times—it’s a sort of compulsion (that often results in my wasting time).

I’m almost certain reading is generally more valuable than watching 99% of television, but I’m also sure there could be more productive ways to spend my time (and even my reading time).

  • What if I instead spent all my reading time focusing on work-related reading, to try and further my career and knowledge?
  • What can be gained from biographies when they present just one man or woman’s unique perspectives and how they handled them?
  • Is it true that, as Truman Capote once said, that a great work of fiction was more valuable than any other types of reading combined?
I know this is subjective, but I wanted to see your views on whether reading was a waste of time.  I also wanted to get your thoughts on the types of reading that are most productive for learning purposes:
1) Mainstream fiction;
2) “literature”/class literature (fiction);
3) Histories/Biographies;
4) Self-Help;
5) Resources
6) Philosophy/Ideas
7) Insert your own genre here.
Also, have you ever gone through a period of intense reading?  What brought it on and how long did it last?
Finally, to tie this not only into productivity but also personal finance, other than the library –what are your best tips for saving money reading?
I am really looking forward to your responses.
In the meantime, I’m going to sign off this blog and go pickup a good book.


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